SUMMERSIDE – The Maritimes new regional bus service has already proven to be a hit with the travelling public.
Passengers board one of the Maritime Bus vehicles in Truro on Dec. 1, the day the company started. At one point, there were three buses parked outside the Via Rail station on the Esplanade, which is now also serving as a bus terminal. The service replaced Acadian Lines Bus, which used to have a depot on Willow Street.
Tri-Maritime Bus Network went into service Dec. 1, and has recorded record numbers of passengers, said owner Mike Cassidy.
“My record day was last Sunday, Jan 6,” Cassidy said. “We did 1,100 passengers in our total network. I have certainly determined in the last six weeks that there is a need for a passenger/parcel bus network in the Maritimes. No question.”
He said on Boxing Day the service handled a record 950 passengers.
“That record was broken on Sunday,” he said. “All of the students are back to their colleges and their campuses and now it’s a matter of what did we learn and how do we make the bus network system more efficient – less wait times, less delays and that’s what we’re doing today.”
Cassidy said the response to the service is encouraging.
“Summerside was another big surprise to me,” he said. “We’re very, very pleased with the number of passengers in and out of Summerside. And appreciate the fact that we had no historical trends, travel patterns or ridership numbers. So everything was brand new to me. Very impressed with when we pick up, how we pick up, the numbers we have, where everybody is going and coming from.”
But even with the successes over the past six weeks, Cassidy said there is room for improvement.
“It all comes down to scheduling,” he said. “I had too many travel times, got a little too aggressive, had too many options and it became a little complicated. When one bus gets late, it’s just a domino effect, the second, third, fourth, fifth bus can get late. That’s not what we want. My schedule was too tight and now I have to have more flexibility, more turn-around time which will allow us to have less frustrated customers, drivers and terminal agency staff.”
Cassidy said some former Acadian lines employees are working the front counter and the sales desk with Tri-Maritime and tell him they are as busy as they have ever been.
“We don’t have actual figures but we have their expressions where (they say) ‘we’re just as busy today as what we were on a New Year’s Eve ever,’” he said. “We’re getting that feedback. We’re getting the encouragement that we are just as busy. And I know that there’s a market need. I worked the terminal every day since we started. You’re listening, you’re talking to customers and there is no question there is a need for this service in the Maritime region. Now I just have to get more efficient. It has to be cost-controlled. We have to market and drive ridership.”